Top Receivers in NFL Draft: Michael Pittman

Bill Huber

USC’s Michael Pittman, whose father played in the NFL, checks in at No. 9 in our ranking of the top receivers in the NFL Draft.

Michael Pittman Jr.’s got a long way to go to catch up to his father.

In 11 NFL seasons as a running back for the Cardinals, Buccaneers and Broncos, Michael Pittman Sr. piled up more than 9,100 yards from scrimmage and scored 33 touchdowns. In the 37th Super Bowl with Tampa Bay, he rushed for 124 yards – the fourth-best day of 158 career games.

Where Pittman Jr. almost certainly will beat his father is in the draft. Pittman Sr. was a fourth-round pick in 1998; Pittman Jr. almost certainly will be drafted at least a round earlier.

“There’s not a lot of minuses” to being the son of a former NFL player, Pittman Jr. said at the Scouting Combine. “The only minus is probably the fact my dad was gone a lot at work. But there’s a lot of pluses. He coaches me up about stuff like this. He’s kind of helped me get to this point.”

As a senior at USC, Pittman caught 101 passes for 1,275 yards and 11 touchdowns to earn second-team All-American and be a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s top receiver. He topped 100 yards in four of his last five regular-season games with six touchdowns. That gave him a four-year total of 171 catches for 2,519 yards and 19 scores.

“He’s never really put pressure on us. He just lets us play,” Pittman said. “He’s never forced us to play football. He’s never made us go run routes, go work out. … The greatest lesson is you can never hurt yourself by working as hard as possible. Even if you work hard and fail, you still know, ‘Hey, I did everything possible and it just didn’t happen.’”

At 6-foot-4 and 223 pounds, Pittman ran his 40 in 4.52 seconds – a darned good number for a guy who is closer in size to a traditional tight end than a traditional receiver. With his size and strength, he hauled in 12-of-22 passes thrown 20-plus yards downfield.

“I think I have the ability to move well,” he said. “I’ve got quickness and strong hands. And I have great body control. That helps me at the catch point.”

What we like

If you’re looking for a big receiver, there’s not much to dislike. He’s got size and he knows how to use it, whether it’s using his physicality to get open, making contested catches or breaking tackles (14). Moreover, of our top 32 receivers, he finished sixth in drop rate at 2.7 percent and tied for eighth by reeling in 90 percent of catchable passes. “I just went in my senior year and I didn’t just want to be the guy who gets open by pushing people around and throwing people around. I wanted to show skill and a finesse side.”

What we don’t like

Despite the pedigree and physical traits, he wasn’t a big factor in the USC offense until his senior season. Like most big guys, he’s not a great route-runner. And because he’s so big, he rarely saw press coverage. 

Bill Huber’s Top Receivers

No. 1: Alabama’s Jerry Jeudy

No. 2: Alabama’s Henry Ruggs

No. 3: Oklahoma’s CeeDee Lamb

No. 4: LSU’s Justin Jefferson

No. 5: Baylor’s Denzel Mims

No. 6: Clemson’s Tee Higgins

No. 7: Arizona State’s Brandon Aiyuk

No. 8: Colorado’s Laviska Shenault

No. 9: USC’s Michael Pittman

No. 10: Texas’ Devin Duvernay

No. 11: Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool

No. 12: TCU’s Jalen Reagor

SI.com: The New Receiver U.

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